The future is Gothic: elements of Gothic in dystopian novels.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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This thesis explores the relationship between the Gothic tradition and Dystopian novels in order to illuminate new perspective on the body in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland (1915), Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange (1962), Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) and Michel Houellebecq’s Atomised (1999). The key concerns are those of the Labyrinth, Dark Places, Connectedness and the Loss of the Individual, Live Burials, Monsters and Fragmented Flesh.
A thematic approach allows for the novels to be brought together under common Gothic themes in order to show not only that they have such tendencies, but that they share common ground as Gothic Dystopias. While the focus is on bodily concerns in these novels, it is also pertinent to offer a discussion of past critical perspectives on the Dystopia and this is undertaken in Chapter One. Chapter Two looks at the narrative structure of the novels and finds similarities in presentation to Gothic novels, which leads to exploration of the position of the body in such a narrative of the unseen. The third chapter looks to the spaces inhabited by characters in the novels to examine their impact on the threat faced by these individuals. The Gothic convention of doubling is the focus of Chapter Four, which finds not only doubling operating in Dystopian novels, but the more complex relationship of triangles of doubling holding characters, fixing them in relation to those around at the expense of selfhood. Chapter Five takes Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s musings on the Gothic as its point of departure and finds that Dystopian bodies occupy a very similarly trapped position. Chapter Six identifies two types of monsters that inhabit the Gothic Dystopian space: those people who transform between the human and the monstrous, and those individuals who form a larger monster based on power that lives parasitically on transgressive bodies. The final chapter displays the impact of the Gothic Dystopia on individual bodies: ‘Fragmented Flesh’. The destruction of a coherent whole, a body with defined and sustainable boundaries, is the outcome of the novels where fear, repression, and the hidden combine to leave little space for cohesion and identification in the Gothic Dystopia.
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